Gratitude and Addiction Recovery

The month of November is “gratitude month” whereby people indicate one thing they are grateful for every day of the month. The volume of people thinking about what they are grateful for has seemingly grown with the advent of social media – when friends see their friends posting about what they are grateful for on Facebook, it prompts them to do the same.

In addiction treatment programs and 12 step programs, gratitude is one of the many cornerstones that help people recover. Everyday people are encouraged to think about what they are grateful for and the simple praise for not picking up a drug or a drink each day goes a long way. After all, many in recovery can recall a time when they had no choice, when each day they tried to abstain from abusing their substance of choice but by nightfall they were in the grips of addiction yet again. Being able to go even just one day without succumbing to one’s addiction is a lot to be grateful for.

Drug and alcohol rehab and 12 Step programs engrain gratitude within those recovering because it becomes the anti-venom of negative and dismal thinking that can spark someone to pick up a drink or a drug. By taking a moment to reflect on all the great things in life, it nullifies the poison of negative thinking. Often addicts use negative thinking to manufacture an excuse to pick up a drink or a drug, gratitude offers the excuses to not pick up a drink or a drug.

While people sanction days like Thanksgiving or months like November for gratitude, those in addiction recovery make this a daily reflection – and it pays off. Several studies correlate gratitude and good health, including a study in Personality and Individual Differences that analyzed 1,000 people between 18-80. It concluded that gratitude improved one’s physical health because it drastically improved psychological health. Those with psychological well being are more likely to engage in activities that improve physical health such as exercising or seeing a doctor when they are sick. This naturally allows people to sustain well being which is the opposite of addiction, which perpetuates self-destruction and deteriorating physical health.

Gratitude is just one of the many tools and gifts of sobriety, that have multifaceted positive effects on one’s overall condition. For example, when addicts are in gratitude together, many recognize that the positive turn their lives have taken is indeed part of their own work, but they also credit it to others that have helped them and to a divine intervention as well. Gratitude is therefore a spiritual and social emotion that can improve relations – after all, everyone is attracted to those that behave graciously. This in turn fosters social support and interaction that relieves stress and depression which is essential in the sustenance of sobriety. The many gifts of gratitude are just one thing to be grateful for. What are you grateful for?

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